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Wednesday, 22 February 2012

BNP opens Dubai offices after Bahrain unrest -

BNP Paribas, the largest foreign bank in Bahrain, has opened two offices in neighbouring Dubai as part of a drive to protect itself against the disruption it faced during last year’s pro-democracy revolt in Manama.
While BNP denies it is diversifying operations away from its regional headquarters, some other bankers say its move reflects a wider nervousness among big companies about the Gulf state amid the year-long protest by members of the Shia Muslim majority against the minority Sunni-led government.

Bahrain's Batelco says India stake sale to lift 2012 profit | Reuters

Bahrain Telecommunications Co's (Batelco) sale of its stake in Indian affiliate S Tel will help it achieve double-digit profit growth in 2012, the former monopoly said on Wednesday.

On Feb. 8, Batelco announced it would it sell its 43-percent holding in S Tel for $175 million to its Indian partner, the first exit by a foreign operator since an Indian court cancelled 122 telecoms licences last month amid a corruption probe.

Batelco will receive the same price it paid to acquire the S Tel stake in 2009, with the sale expected to be completed in the fourth quarter.

Arab spring in London property | beyondbrics –

The Arab spring has turned into a ka-ching [£££] for London’s new-build residential property market, according to real estate consultants Jones Lang LaSalle.

The value of Middle East investment in London’s new-build market almost doubled last year as unrest in the region prompted buyers to look for havens abroad, the property consultants say.

In 2011 Middle East money made up 9 per cent of total foreign investment in London’s new-build property, compared to 5 per cent in 2010, according to JLL’s sales data. That happened as the total foreign transaction values for newly built homes stayed flat at around £1.25bn.

Gulf loans weigh heavy on European banks -

European banks are struggling to sell off Middle East project finance loans as they refuse to lower their prices to match demand.
The institutions want to ditch the debt to boost their balance sheets, but are finding little appetite for it among regional banks and other international lenders, which think new loan issues emerging locally offer better value.
“There is a disconnect between where European banks are willing to sell and where the Middle East is willing to buy,” says one Dubai-based loan trader.

MIDEAST MONEY-Legal limbo stymies banks' recovery of Dubai govt debt | Reuters

More than two years after the Dubai debt crisis erupted, the restructuring of corporate debts remains in legal limbo as it is unclear how banks can get back their money from government-linked enterprises in the Gulf state.

The impasse, which is aggravated by deficient bankruptcy legislation, is finally pushing some banks to lose patience and consider legal action. But their tougher stance is being matched by a hardening of the government's attitude to bailing out state-linked entities, raising the risk of further delays in completing these restructurings.

In other jurisdictions, the spectre of legal action would have loomed long before now.

Dubai raises $675 mln for tram project | Reuters

Dubai's department of finance raised $675 million from a dual-currency loan to complete the first phase of its Al-Sufouh tram project in the emirate.

The facility comprises a 13-year $401 million loan which will amortize over 10 years starting 2015, the media office of Dubai government said in an email statement on Wednesday.

The loan is guaranteed by the official government export credit agencies of Belgium (ONDD) and France (COFACE).

UPDATE 1-Citi arm, Dubai PE firm in $100 mln Saudi deal | Agricultural Commodities | Reuters

Citigroup's venture capital arm and Dubai-based Levant Capital have bought a $100 million controlling stake in Saudi Arabian supermarket chain Al-Raya For Foodstuff Co Ltd., lured by growth prospects in the kingdom's consumer sector.

Al-Raya, based in Jeddah, operates 25 supermarkets across 14 cities in Saudi Arabia, and had posted sales of 800 million riyals ($213 million) in 2011, a joint statement from Citi Venture Capital International (CVCI) and Levant said.

"The transaction, valued at $100 million, presents an opportunity for Levant Capital and CVCI to capitalize on the growth in consumer-driven demand and the increasingly attractive middle income segment of the gulf region's largest economy," it said, adding that the deal closed on Tuesday.

Kuwait's Agility seeks u-turn on US fraud charges - Industries -

Agility, the Kuwaiti storage and logistics provider, has asked a US judge to throw out charges it defrauded the US government on a multi-billion dollar contract to feed troops overseas.
Agility, also known as Public Warehousing Co, has filed a motion to dismiss the 2009 indictment alleging the company paid premium prices on products rather than getting discounts, according to court documents seen by Bloomberg. It said prosecutors have no proof to prove the case against Agility.
“The government resorted to a series of sharp and unethical tactics, designed to distort - and in some instances create - the evidence to support the government’s after-the-fact interpretation of the contract and to transform what is, at best, a contractual dispute over the proper interpretation of the prime vendor contracts into a criminal prosecution,” according to the court filing in federal court in Atlanta.

Sabic Rises to 7-Month High in Saudi Arabia on Oil: Riyadh Mover - Bloomberg

Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), the world’s biggest petrochemicals maker, rallied to the highest in almost seven months on bets rising oil prices will support the stock and as Saudi Arabia’s benchmark index surged to the highest since 2008.
The shares advanced 1.3 percent to 100.5 riyals, the highest since Aug. 3, at the 3:30 p.m. close in Riyadh. The stock was the most active by trading value in the Tadawul All Share Index, (SASEIDX) which climbed 0.9 percent to 7,031.26, the highest since September 2008. The stock has advanced 4.4 percent so far this year compared with a 9.6 percent gain in the benchmark.
“Sabic is trading above 100 riyals on the strength in Brent prices,” said Dubai-based Ibrahim Masood, who helps manage about $400 million at Mashreqbank PSC. (MASQ) “The stock has seen significantly higher volumes over the past couple of days as offshore investors tried to play catchup with the Saudi market.”

MENA stock markets close - February 22, 2012

ExchangeStatus IndexChange
TASI (Saudi Stock Market)
DFM (Dubai Financial Market)
ADX (Abudhabi Securities Exchange)
KSE (Kuwait Stock Exchange)
BSE (Bahrain Stock Exchange)
MSM (Muscat Securities Market)
QE (Qatar Exchange)
LSE (Beirut Stock Exchange)
EGX 30 (Egypt Exchange)
ASE (Amman Stock Exchange)
TUNINDEX (Tunisia Stock Exchange)
CB (Casablanca Stock Exchange)
PSE (Palestine Securities Exchange)

Saudi Shares Rise to Three-Year High on Bets Bourse May Open Up - Bloomberg

Saudi Arabia’s stock index advanced to the highest level in more than three years on investor speculation the Arab world’s biggest stock market may this year open up to foreign investors.
Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), the world’s biggest petrochemicals maker, gained to the highest level since August. Al-Rajhi Bank (RJHI), Saudi Arabia’s largest publicly traded lender by market value, rose 1.3 percent. The Tadawul All Share Index (SASEIDX) climbed 0.9 percent to 7,031.26, the highest since September 2008, at the 3:30 p.m. close in Riyadh, bringing its increase this week to 3.2 percent. The Bloomberg GCC 200 Index (BGCC200) added 0.5 percent.
“Some investors in regional markets are putting money into Saudi Arabia with the view that the bourse may soon open up to direct foreign ownership,” said Asim Bukhtiar, an equity analyst at Riyad Capital. “Volumes have been going up in Saudi Arabia but are generally muted in regional bourses.”

Al Jaber in top management reshuffle amid debt talks: sources | Alrroya

Al Jaber Group, a family-held conglomerate in the midst of a $1-billion plus restructuring, will hire a new chief executive to replace the founder's son in a management reshuffle that also saw a new finance chief appointed late last year, three sources told Reuters on Wednesday.

A recruitment firm has been retained to bring in a new CEO, replacing Mohammed al-Jaber, the son of the group's founder and chairman Obaid al-Jaber, two of the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

In addition, Richard Hollands was hired in November as chief financial officer from an Emirates airline unit.

UPDATE 1-Kuwait's Burgan to buy 70 pct of Eurobank Tekfen-sources | Reuters

Kuwait's Burgan Bank has reached a deal to buy a 70 percent stake in Turkey's Eurobank Tekfen, a partnership of Greece's EFG Eurobank and Turkey's Tekfen Holding, sources with knowledge of the deal said.

The stake sale comes as Greek banks, hit by the country's sovereign debt crisis, look to boost their capital base to cope with a protracted recession and rise in non-performing loans.

EFG Eurobank, Greece's second-largest lender, said in July last year it had begun talks to sell a majority stake in Eurobank Tekfen as it sought to safeguard its balance sheet against debt losses.

UBS: don’t bet on a big boost from EMs | beyondbrics –

Looking for another big monetary stimulus from China and other emerging markets? Forget it, says Jonathan Anderson of UBS. Even though we’ve seen interest rates cuts – and can expect more – there’s no scope for radical easing, and no need either.

But, says Anderson, that’s not bad news. It shows that growth is chugging along nicely in most emerging markets, so there should be plenty of opportunities for investors.

2011 best financial year for Savola as profit soars |

The Savola Group achieved consolidated net income of SR1.2 billion in 2011, an increase of 35.6 percent compared to the previous years SR886.7 million, the company said in a statement Tuesday.
Earnings per share is SR2.40, compared to SR1.77 for the previous year. Gross profit amounted to SR3.97 billion, an increase of 16.1 percent compared to SR3.42 billion in 2010. Operating profit amounted to SR1.8 billion, an increase of 20 percent against SR1.5 billion in 2010.

U.A.E. May Expand Monopolies Law to Car Dealers, Gulf News Says - Bloomberg

The United Arab Emirates may expand its monopolies law, which sought to liberalize the sale of basic food products, to tackle other monopolies, including car dealers, Gulf News reported, citing the economy minister.
The move would boost competition and bring down costs by curbing “all types of monopolies and exploitation,” Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri said at a meeting of the country’s Federal National Council yesterday.

Dubai's DP World in talks for $1bn loan | Alrroya

Dubai's DP World is in talks with banks for a $1-billion syndicated loan to replace its existing $3bn deal that matures in October, bankers said.

The global ports operator is self-arranging the deal, with pricing within the 200 basis points (bps) bracket, the bankers added.

No one at DP World was immediately available to comment.

Bahrain plans to reduce 'lavish spending'

Bahrain must tighten its belt to reduce lavishness, rationalise spending and protect public money, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa said.

Welfare spending will be trimmed substantially among a string of other measures, he said as he chaired a work meeting of the Cabinet.

The session discussed Bahrain's financial standing and economic challenges it is facing amid global developments, said a report in the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.

Banks brace for major rule changes - The National

The Central Bank is preparing an overhaul of its retail banking regulations by May as part of what is being billed as an annual review of consumer lending in the Emirates.

Credit cards, mortgages and personal loans are all under discussion for further regulation, after an attempt last year to curb excessive lending fees was heavily resisted by the banking sector.

"The plan is to review the effect of this regulation annually … based on feedback from the sector and from customers," said one source at the Central Bank familiar with the discussions, the conclusions of which could be revealed as soon as this week.

Oil Declines From Nine-Month High on Concern Demand Will Falter on Economy - Bloomberg

Oil fell on speculation that prices near a nine-month high will curb demand as the global economy slows and crude stockpiles rise in the U.S., the world’s biggest consumer of the commodity.
Futures slid as much as 0.5 percent, heading for the first decline in more than a week, as crude’s relative strength index signaled prices may have risen too quickly. U.S. inventories climbed 1.5 million barrels last week, a Bloomberg News survey showed. Manufacturing in China, the second-biggest oil user, may shrink a fourth month, according to a purchasing managers survey. Bank of England Deputy Governor Charlie Bean said a second bailout for Greece may not end Europe’s debt crisis.
“Demand forecasts for the U.S. remain neutral to bearish,” said Jonathan Barratt, chief executive of Barratt’s Bulletin, a commodity markets newsletter in Sydney, who sees resistance for New York crude at about $106 a barrel. “The European situation is going to be a slow grind.”

CME Group to Double Its Stake in Dubai Commodities Exchange -

CME Group Inc. said it will double its stake in the Dubai Mercantile Exchange to 50%, eying expansion of a key oil-futures contract at a time when rival exchanges are reassessing their role in the Gulf region.

CME will pay an undisclosed sum to lift its stake despite still-small trading activity on the DME platform, which the Chicago-based exchange operator of the New York Mercantile Exchange has backed as providing a third global benchmark for crude-oil trade targeting suppliers in Asia.

The investment, disclosed Tuesday, also underscores major exchange groups' refocused efforts on building ties with smaller, foreign-based market operators after a year of megamerger efforts fell apart amid regulatory and nationalistic barriers.

Gulf Times – ‘Qatar leading energy market transformation with LNG focus’

The global economy will more than double in size between 2010 and 2040 during which the energy demand will grow by more than 30%, according to ExxonMobil.
Oil and natural gas will continue to play a central role in meeting the world’s energy needs, by virtue of their availability, versatility and affordability, ExxonMobil’s senior vice president Andrew P Swiger said at the Brookings Doha Energy Forum 2012. In the decades ahead, the world will depend on partnerships between international oil companies and national oil companies to unlock new supplies of energy, apply high-impact technologies, and effectively manage safety and environmental risks, Swiger said.

Gulf Times – Call for Qatar investments in London infrastructure

The Lord Mayor of the city of London has highlighted the close relationship between Qatar and his city, saying that the political efforts exerted by the local authorities in the international arena have led to a deeper understanding and closer ties between Qatar and the UK.
David Wootton, on a two-day visit to Qatar to meet government and private sector officials, spoke to Gulf Times about the investment opportunities for Qatar in the UK’s capital, claiming that the country could play a role in the city of London’s £200bn infrastructure development plans over the next five years.

Govt urged to scrap loan interests, give handouts | Kuwait Times

Expectations over a decision to scrap interest on bank loans gained momentum yesterday after the five MPs of the opposition Popular Action Bloc, including Assembly Speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun, submitted a draft law calling for the government to scrap hundreds of millions of dinars in interest. The bill, signed by MPs Musallam Al-Barrak, Mohammad Al-Khalifa, Ali Al-Deqbasi and Khaled Al-Tahous in addition to Saadoun, also calls for paying every Kuwaiti citizen KD 1,000 to go side by side with the abolishing of interests.

The financial cost of the two measures is not immediately known but it will be close to KD 2 billion because the cost of the grant alone will be around KD 1.2 billion. The bill calls for the government to bear the total cost of the bill and for the local banks to reschedule the debt of Kuwaiti citizens provided the value of the loan does not exceed KD 70,000. The banks are required to reschedule repayment by scrapping the interest provided the value of each installment does not exceed 30 percent of the debtor’s income.

Business : UAE trade to outdo global average: HSBC

UAE trade is expected to grow faster than the world average over the next 15 years that demonstrates the continuing strength of the country’s economy, according to HSBC’s latest Trade Connections report.
The forecast data shows that UAE companies expect to increase trade activity by 5.52 per cent annually over the next 15 years, with overall trade growth expected to grow by 124.03 per cent to 2026. While world trade to grow by 86 per cent in the next 15 years.

It is predicted that trade in the UAE will grow at an annualised rate of 6.99 per cent over the next five years to 2016, increasing between 2017-2021 at 5.37 per cent.

Abraaj deal poses two big questions - and maintains a trend - The National

Two big questions were left hanging after Monday's announcement by Abraaj Capital that it was to take over Aureos Capital of London, regulators allowing: what will it cost and what does it mean?

Abraaj declined to give an answer to the first, for reasons of "confidentiality". Every company, especially private ones such as the two parties to this deal, has a right to privacy and a duty to its investors to protect confidential information, so it was well within the rights of Arif Naqvi, the founder and chief executive of Abraaj, to stay silent.

But it got the conspiracists' minds working.

Mega Islamic bank may be launched in 2012 - Emirates 24/7

A long-awaited mega Islamic bank to be headquartered in Bahrain may be launched this year and $600 million of its $one billion capital will be contributed by Islamic banks in the Arab region, a senior banker has said.

The remaining capital will be subscribed by local sovereign wealth funds and other financial institutions and investors, said Adnan Youssef, chairman of the Beirut-based Union of Arab Banks (UAB).

Touted to be the world’s largest Shariah-compliant unit, the bank idea was first floated in 2009 but was delayed many times because of the repercussions of the 2008 global fiscal distress, Gulf debt default problems, the European Union debt crisis and the political unrest sweeping the Middle East.


A number of analysts are pointing out that oil prices may have moved up too quickly and the move is potentially unjustified. These price increases (with a large move today alone – see chart below) have been driven by two factors:

1. The Greek “resolution” may be pointing to a global economic stabilization that will increase demand.
2. Iran’s belligerent attitude and nuclear ambitions are creating fears of supply disruptions.

Let’s address both of these items.

Today’s move in Brent crude

Turkey: easing but for how long? | beyondbrics -

It may not be much of a coincidence that a big emerging market – Turkey- relaxed its monetary policy almost as soon as the eurozone agreed the latest Greek bailout.

Turkey’s step, taken at the monthly meeting of the country’s monetary policy committee, reduces the highest interest rate the central bank can charge commercial banks by 100 basis points.

The link? These days what most affects investors’ day-to-day perspective on the Turkish economy, like those of many other countries, is probably not so much the country’s own economic fundamentals as the global appetite for risk, determined, as much as anything else, by the eurozone’s prospects.